You know that quote by J.K. Rowling: “Is fat really the worst thing a human being can be? Is fat worse than vindictive, jealous, shallow, vain, boring, evil, or cruel?…” Well, fat phobia is when a person believes that the answer is yes.
For as long as I can remember, I was taught that being fat was something to be avoided. Fat was unhealthy. Fat was lazy. Fat was gluttonous. Fat was “letting go”. There was a fear instilled inside of me from a young age, and I became fat phobic. I won’t lie, I was fat phobic until quite recently (like… one year ago recently). I agreed with all of the stereotypes about fat people. I looked at them and would think things like “they really should try to lose that weight”, “how could they let themselves get like that?”, or “don’t they know how UNHEALTHY it is to be that size?” I would fear that people would think the same things about me if I gained weight.
However, it wasn’t until I learned some facts about people living in a bigger body that opened up my eyes. Did you know that a person’s socioeconomic status, their ethnicity, mental health status, and if they have dieted (!!!) are just a few significant things that can determine how much that person weighs? That’s right, things outside of a persons control (besides the dieting). Weight gain is not just the typical ‘eating ‘junk food’ every day and not exercising’ that we typically hear all about.
So why do we not talk about all of these other factors? Why do we only really hear about ‘eating lots and being lazy is going to make you fat and when you’re fat your going to get diseases and die’? It’s because we live in a fat phobic society (YES another thing I’m gonna blame society for, lol. #ThingsTatumBlamesOnSociety). Just take a look at all of the messages around us — “Your secret to fat loss!”, “Get your body beach ready!”, “Look good to feel good!” or one I see every day driving to school “FEAR NO MIRROR” printed next to a woman’s stomach in a bikini. All of these messages breed fear. They tell us that having fat on our bodies is unacceptable, and that we need to do something to change if we do have fat. These messages have become ingrained in our society and they perpetuate fat phobia. Because of it, more people have been, and will be in the same boat as I was– absolutely terrified of the thought of being fat. Judging other people because of their body size. Another person perpetuating the issue.
I feel like the worst thing about fat phobia is that it is something that tends to get brushed to the side and deemed normaland ok. Think about it; have you ever had those thoughts about someone else, or your own self? Chances are, if (when) you have had those thoughts, they were met with reinforcement from the ads you’ve seen, from what you’ve heard other people say, and from what you’ve read online; all telling you that fat is wrong. Fat is to be avoided at all costs because fat will kill you. On the note of fat killing you, let’s check this out– If America is in an “Obesity Epidemic” that is killing everyone off slowly… why is the average lifespan of Americans continually on the rise? Wouldn’t you think that as the “deadly weight gain” of America rose, the lifespan would lower?
Even if obesity was lowering the mortality rate of America, there are still more factors that come into play than the fat itself. Recent studies have found that stigma surrounding obesity has a worse effect on a person’s health than the actual weight itself. Ironically, fear of fat should be scarier than the actual fat.
So, if you’re sittin’ there reading this post and are still skeptical… I don’t blame ya. Like I said, I didn’t want to accept that fact that bigger bodies aren’t “death wishes” until about a year ago because that’s just what I had been told my whole life. In the beginning, I didn’t believe what I was reading and hearing people say about Health at Every Size, and weight neutrality. I didn’t think it was possible to NOT take weight into account of health and wellness. But I was curious, so I dove in and started reading countless books (like this one and this one), blogs (like this one, this one, this one, and this one, to name a FEW) and peer reviewed scientific studies. It was hard to accept that everything I was taught while growing up was only about 2% of the whole picture regarding weight; but completely eye opening and life changing.
Fat is not the worst thing you can be. It’s not the worst thing that anyone can be. In a world that definitely seems to push the message that the contrary is true, its hard to accept. I feel ya there. But I challenge you to challenge yourself. Challenge what you’ve been told about weight. Challenge the way you think about weight gain in yourself, and in other people around you. Challenge the misconceptions that being thin is the only way to achieve health. Challenge the stereotypes. Challenge fat phobia.